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Bringing back native birdsong to Methven

Bringing back native birdsong to Methven
Methven Lions John Corbett and Mac McElwain next to the vacant council reserve they hope to transform into a sancturary for native birds. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR

Lions are fighting tooth and nail to bring native birdsong back to Methven.

Methven Lions spokesman Mac McElwain presented the concept of creating a native bird sanctuary on the edge of the township to the Methven Community Board on Monday.

“You don’t hear any birds anymore and isn’t that a shame?”

The Methven birdsong initiative, led by the Lions, is aimed at restoring bird song around the area and “to leave something of a legacy for our kids and grandkids”.

McElwain presented the idea to the board to initiate the process and was pleased that it endorsed the proposal.

Their vision is to create a new native habitat on vacant council-owned land at the south end of town, behind the Garden of Harmony – an area of council land already turned into a planted area with walkways.

“We would love to think we could do the job of clearing it, fencing and replanting it with natives of all sorts, and get rid of the pests and predators within it so that we can create a sanctuary.”

The “underlying intent” is to attract native birds, he said.

The other aspect of the project is that Methven doesn’t have a proper domain, McElwain said.

“We have one with a footy ground on it but not one with trees.”

Methven Lions member Barry Maister, who was involved in establishing the similar Picton Dawn Chorus project, said that as well as the environmental benefits it could become another attraction for the town.

The project is also looking at setting up an area in the foothills, McElwain said.

The two key elements of the plan are habit creation and predator control.

The first step is to start up a trap library to “give households in the town the ability to trap in their gardens” to reduce the predator population.

“We’ll need funds to set the thing up and to buy the traps, and to run it.”

The project has already identified potential funding options, including a grant from the Methven Community Board, council and  various agencies.

The community board has already earmarked a domain area at the rear of the Garden of Harmony to push for in the long-term plan.

During the board meeting, council chief executive Hamish Riach said that a strategic plan for the site was required, which would need community consultation.

"The first step will involve the Board talking with its community about the proposal for the site, as community buy-in to the Birdsong Initiative will be crucial to its success, Riach said.

"This will likely happen in the New Year, and if the project goes ahead then a formal landscape plan and schedule of work will follow – this would include site access."

It was noted that the land had previously been considered for a new Methven water treatment plant and relocation of the medical centre, among other projects.

The site is home to the RDR pipe shed, a listed heritage item,  and it is proposed to add a Highbank turbine runner to the site.

Predator problems

A trap library in Methven is the way to eradicate the predators - but there is a red flag.

How to manage feral cats.

“Quite how we do that is yet to be worked out,” McElwain said.

When it comes to predator control, there is no legislation for managing feral cats like there is for possums, rats, ferrets and stoats.

One possible solution is to introduce mandatory microchipping of domestic cats, allowing any trapping program to easily distinguish between pets and feral cats.

Last year the Selwyn District Council became the first in the South Island, and fourth nationally, to require cats to be microchipped from four months of age.

The Ashburton District Council is yet to consider the option, or be asked to, Riach said.

"To do as other councils have done in microchipping cats, council would need a request from the public and if council deemed it justifiable, we would have to amend our bylaw to allow cats to be microchipped."

Or, they wait until the Keeping of Animals, Bees and Poultry bylaw is up for review in 2026, he said.

By Jonathan Leask